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Public Observatory

Amazing views of the Universe, including images from telescopes at the Smithsonian Public Observatory at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC | @SIObservatory |

This creative composite image of last night's total lunar eclipse, by John Ashley, demonstrates the effect of camera exposure. The bright part of the Moon is captured with short exposures (images at far left, upper left, lower right, and far right). The shadowed part of the Moon is captured with longer exposures (images are at lower left, center, and upper right). The red tint comes from sunlight filtering through Earth's atmosphere and falling on the eclipsed Moon.

What can you expect from tonight and tomorrow morning's total lunar eclipse? Find out on the blog: Image Caption: Total lunar eclipse, photographed at the Public Observatory at the National Air and Space Museum on December 21, 2010. Photos by Smithsonian staff.

How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse (Photo: Multiple exposure of lunar eclipse over Maui, Hawaii by Fred Espenak)

The total lunar eclipse of December 21, 2010, photographed by Smithsonian staff. Don't miss tonight's lunar eclipse, visible from most of North America!

Hubble snapped this image of Comet Siding Spring. In 6 months, the comet will fly close to the planet Mars. Credit: NASA, ESA, and J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute).

Star-quakes reveal the inner structure of stars. GIF animation of one of many possible oscillation modes within the Sun, credit David Guenther, Saint Mary´s University.

It's Global Astronomy Month 2014! Will you be involved? #GAM2014

Flower power: NASA is designing a starshade that will help take pictures of planets orbiting other stars.

Astrobiologists are coming up with ideas about how another world might be even *more* habitable than Earth. One such "super-habitable" planet might even be found in the Alpha Centauri system! Artist's impression credit: ESO/L. Calçada.

Astronomers have found another distant dwarf planet, 2012VP 113, with a similar orbit to Sedna (which is depicted here in an artist's impression). These objects have similar orbits to each other, but they are distinct from anything else in the Solar System. They may turn out to be the first known members of the inner Oort Cloud. Artist's impression of Sedna credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Observations from many South American locations, including the European Southern Observatory, have discovered the first ring system around an asteroid. The space rock, named Chariklo, orbits beyond Saturn and has two thin, distinct, bright rings. The only other objects in the Solar System known to have rings are the four huge gas giant planets. Artist's impression credit: ESO/L. Calçada/M. Kornmesser/Nick Risinger

These stunning infrared images of the Monkey Head Nebula were taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to celebrate the orbiting telescope's 24th birthday next month. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

This morning, a filament on the Sun erupted and split the Sun's atmosphere, creating a "canyon of fire." Credit: NASA SDO, via

25 years ago, on March 13, 1989, a massive solar storm knocked out power to the entire province of Quebec for 12 hours. This artist's rendition from NASA shows the 1989 blackout. Right now, a relatively weak solar maximum is coming to an end. However, the 1989 blackout should continue to remind us of what outbursts on the Sun can do to our technology, and what we can do to protect our astronauts, satellites, and power supplies.

Uranus was discovered 233 years ago today. That's only 2.8 Uranian years! These infrared images of the two sides of Uranus and its faint rings were taken by the Keck Observatory in Hawai'i. Credit: Lawrence Sromovsky, University of Wisconsin-Madison/ W. M. Keck Observatory

This beautiful high-resolution image shows a prominence of gas arching above the limb of the Sun. The Earth is shown for scale. Image credit: JP Brahic.

The Hubble Space Telescope has photographed the never-before-seen break-up of an asteroid, which has fragmented into as many as ten smaller pieces. Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble

To better understand how certain structures form in the aurora, the NASA-funded GREECE rocket launched directly into the glowing northern lights over Alaska on March 3, 2014. Credit: NASA/Christopher Perry.

Artist’s impression of a brown dwarf (ULAS J222711-004547) with an unusually thick layer of clouds, made of mineral dust. These thick clouds give the brown dwarf its extremely red colour. Picture credit: Neil J Cook, Centre for Astrophysics Research, University of Hertfordshire.

A sunset on Mars, taken by the NASA rover Spirit. This is approximately how the colors would appear to the human eye. See beautiful images like this, taken by Spirit and Opportunity, at the National Air and Space Museum. The exhibit "Spirit and Opportunity: 10 Years Roving Across Mars" is on display until September 14, 2014.

NuSTAR, NASA's high-energy orbiting X-ray observatory, has created the first map of radioactive material in a supernova remnant. This helps astronomers figure out how stars blow up. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CXC/SAO.

This image of the Sun was taken on 12/11/13. In this image are many great examples of prominences, the wispy plumes just off the edge of the Sun, and filaments, the slightly darker lines snaking across the disk of the Sun. These are both the same phenomenon, viewed at different angles. Photo by Smithsonian staff, Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory

Astronomers found that solar storms behave like supernovae, and like ink falling through a glass of water. This image is from the solar eruption of July 7, 2011, the most powerful eruption during the modern age of constant, high-resolution monitoring of the Sun. Photo credit: NASA/SDO

A 13.6 billion year old star has been found - that's nearly as old as the Universe! The old star has only a trace of "heavy elements" like carbon, and practically no iron at all. According to the research team, from the Australian National University, that means that this star formed from debris left over from the explosion of the very first generation of stars. It also gives us vital clues about how that first generation of stars died. Photo provided by Stefan Keller, lead researcher.

This winter has been an amazing season for aurora-watching, in part because of clouds of high-speed gas ejected from the Sun which interact with the Earth's magnetic field. This stunning video of the aurorae in northern Sweden was taken on February 1, 2014 by Lights Over Lapland. "I can honestly say that this was one of the greatest displays of natural beauty that I have ever seen," says Chad Blakley, an aurora tour guide. Link via